Calif. Gunmen Release Two Hostages

Sunday, July 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. (AP) — Gunmen who held six people hostage at a jewelry store after a botched robbery attempt released two of them unharmed early Sunday, authorities said.

The first hostage, a woman, was released sometime after 3 a.m., nearly 10 hours after the ordeal at Morgan's Jewelers began, Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Norine Plett said. A second hostage, a man, was released after 6 a.m. Four more hostages remained inside. It was unclear if all were employees.

Plett said there appeared to be two gunmen, though authorities did not rule out the possibility that there were more.

SWAT team members surrounded the store as negotiators communicated via telephone with the gunmen. Authorities said they tried to rob the store located inside the Peninsula Center shopping mall at about 5:20 p.m. Saturday.

``They're trying to come to a peaceful resolution,'' Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Elisabeth Sachs said. ``At this point in the investigation it is unknown whether anyone inside is injured.''

Deputies were alerted to the holdup after employees activated a silent alarm.

Sheriff's officers said they saw two men with briefcases and weapons exiting the store, but the men returned inside when they saw the officers.

Shopper Bob Dunbar said deputies initially told people in the mall to duck for cover inside shops and then told them to evacuate.

``They yelled 'Get down! Get away!' It was scary,'' Dunbar said.

Rolling Hills Estates is about 30 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.